President Putin told his fellow compatriots during a virtual conversation with graduates from the Management Personnel Pool programme the day after the Geneva Summit that their media’s portrayal of Biden “has nothing to do with reality”, after which he lavished sincere praise upon the American leader for his intellect and professionalism, which made many observers wonder why he took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing his information outlets’ coverage of his counterpart.
Wednesday’s Putin-Biden Summit in Geneva was widely regarded as a success in restoring much-needed communication between these Great Powers on an array of relevant issues, which was confirmed by their leaders during their respective press conferences. Everyone expected Presidents Putin and Biden to remain cordial when talking about one another for at least the next week after what they each described as their very pleasant conversations with one another, but nobody could have thought that the Russian leader would subsequently take the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing his own media’s coverage of his counterpart.
While speaking to graduates from the Management Personnel Pool programme of the Graduate School of Public Administration at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration the day after the event, an audience that’s arguably part of the country’s future elite, President Putin had quite a lot to say about Biden. According to the official Kremlin website, he said that:
“I want to say that the image of President Biden as portrayed by our and even the US media has nothing to do with reality…He is completely knowledgeable on all issues; he peeked at his notes from time to time – we all do that. And the image that the media present may even be misleading and prompt one to relax concentration, but there is no reason to do this whatsoever. Mr Biden is a professional, and you need to be very careful when working with him so as not to miss something. He himself does not miss a thing, I assure you, and this was absolutely clear to me… Let me say it again: he is focused, he knows what he wants to achieve and does it very skillfully, and you can instantly sense it.”
While some might cynically think that he was just “being polite” or “following diplomatic decorum” and therefore “didn’t mean what he said”, he clearly didn’t have to go as far as publicly criticizing his own media’s portrayal of Biden to get those points across. Furthermore, the Swiss President confirmed that same day in an interview with the RTS broadcasting company that was reported upon by Russia’s TASS that:
“President Putin has a quality which I appreciate a lot, he does not beat around the bush and instantly get down to business and conveys his thoughts. He listens and responds…[Putin] does not like the things that involves a lot of decorum and excessive protocol and seeks to cut to the chase. Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke for five minutes and I immediately felt that everything is going well between them as people.”
It’s unbelievable to imagine that the Swiss President is “in on it” and “covering up for Putin” by telling the world how candid the Russian leader is and how much he dislikes “decorum and excessive protocol” if it’s not true. Rather, everyone should take the Swiss leader’s words at face value because he has no reason to lie, which in turn adds credence to the claim that President Putin was being sincere in his praise of Biden.
That being established as the most credible interpretation of reality, the question thus arises of why President Putin publicly criticized his media’s portrayal of Biden despite that same media oftentimes being accused by the West of allegedly spewing “fake news”. After all, the Russian leader could have discretely communicated his preference for them to moderate their editorial stance towards his counterpart by focusing less on personal criticisms and more on political ones. Instead, President Putin told his compatriots, and the future elite in particular, that their media’s portrayal of Biden “has nothing to do with reality.”
There are several likely reasons for why he took this unprecedented step. Firstly, President Putin seems to sincerely appreciate and actually respect Biden as a person. He might have even had low expectations of him going into the summit but was apparently surprised by his counterpart’s capabilities in the most pleasant way possible. No credible reports exist suggesting that either leader disliked their latest interaction as everything to the contrary is manipulated media such as what was presented by a CNN anchor on Twitter, debunked by RT’s Bryan MacDonald, and then shared on that same platform by Russia’s UN Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy.
Those who continue to disagree with this interpretation of their interactions are implying (whether consciously or not) that not only is the Swiss President “in on it” in order to “cover up for Putin”, but that so too are an RT journalist and a Russian UN Representative, while the only one supposedly telling the truth ironically happens to be CNN. It’s difficult to believe that any sincere Non-Russian Pro-Russian (NRPR) could adhere to such a belief, though stranger things have of course happened. It should therefore be taken for granted that President Putin was sincere with his publicly expressed views about Biden and that he genuinely likes him quite a lot.
The second reason for Putin’s unprecedented public criticism of Russian media’s portrayal of Biden is that he’s simply had enough of ad hominem attacks against fellow leaders no matter who spreads them and why. After all, the Russian leader has been victimized by such malicious misportrayals for years by the Western Mainstream Media so he personally knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such speculation and vitriol. After meeting with Biden and realizing that he’s actually a very nice guy who’s quite intelligent and professional in President Putin’s personal opinion, he wanted to correct his media’s gross misportaryal of him.
The third reason relates to his motivations for doing this publicly instead of delegating a subordinate to convey this message discretely. President Putin wanted to ensure that his signal was noticed by the entire international community in order to dispel any speculation about the atmosphere surrounding Wednesday’s summit and the attitude of their leaders towards one another. He also probably felt that it would set an excellent example to chastize his media so publicly, especially when talking to his country’s aspiring elite, so that nobody could credibly claim that “he didn’t mean it” and was “only being diplomatic/nice/polite” instead of truly sincere.
These observations lead to the obvious conclusion that not only does President Putin genuinely appreciate, like, and respect Biden, but he wants to encourage his media (both domestic and foreign) to get others to see the American leader the same way that the Russian one does. At the very least, he wants them to abstain from ad hominem attacks against Biden and speculation about his health. President Putin is proudly showing the world that he personally respects Biden and thus has very high hopes that their countries will build upon the progress made during Wednesday’s summit in order to engender a gradual rapproachement between them.